Monday, August 08, 2005

Non-oil-powered transportation (like the El) should get financial credit

I visited the Illinois Railway Museum in McHenry County this weekend where they operate electric-powered streetcars from the early 20th century and maintain almost 100 different passenger trains. These were heavily used for decades as Chicago had the largest streetcar network in the world. General Motors was indicted in the 1940s for its role in buying up these private companies in order to rip out the track and overhead wires and push the oil-powered automobile on the nation.

Now that oil is around $60 a barrel and we are dependent on other nations for our power -- which is another way that we export our wealth and create large trade deficits -- the economic disadvantages of our lack of electric-powered transportation is evident. We generate electricity in Illinois. We have hundreds of years worth of coal here. We should be using that for our transportation, not oil that is in Canada or Mexico or Venezuela or Saudi Arabia. If, that is, we want to keep the money we spend on transportation in Illinois and the United States to enrich ourselves, and not enrich other people with it.

So it strikes me that the electric-powered transportation that we do have in the region -- the CTA's El, Metra's Electric Line and the South Shore Line to South Bend -- ought to be rewarded somehow for using Illinois-made electricity and not foreign-made oil. As the Illinois General Assembly debates the region's funding formula, we should figure out how to encourage more use of electric-powered transportation, because that stimulates our economy, weans off of foreign oil and keep our air cleaner.

The same ought to go for using 100% biodiesel in any of the trains or busses (or, for that matter, any fuel that is made in Illinois). And I think the State with the RTA would be the right government to set up those incentives.


Lazerlou said...

Ah Dan, You must be jealous of us San Franciscoans and our electric buses. How about this instead of a tax credit or other silly bandaid over a gaping wound solutions: the next new deal. Governement and big business getting together to make something happen. Electric cars that are all linked on the same gps computer system. Uniform accelleration. My god think of the energy that would be saved if idiot humans were eleminated from the traffic picture. Instead the largest computer project and electrical engineering project ever. We start pouring billions into Fusion research, to supply the energy, and electrical engines, to provide the work, and the design for a nationwide automatic navigation system, to supply the brains - where you type in where you are going and your electric car takes you there. Let's think big, cause big changes are necessary.

Why is it that for the first time ever this year, there is finally multinational government sponsored research into a fusion reactor and harnessable fusion energy? Oh yea. It has been kept so by Oil companies who want to suck every last dollar of profit out of the ground before our next sources of energy are meaningfully explored.

Lazerlou said...

And Dan, we should never use coal. Ever. It burns dirty and inefficiently. It pollutes. Fusion Dan, fusion.

Nathan Kaufman said...

Maybe it would help if electric transportation and auto-alternatives were viewed\used today as strategic complements and not substitutes for autos.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Lou, come on. Fusion? And no coal at all? I'm all for fusion research, but coal can be burned much more cleanly, and we've got a lot of it, so I'm for clean coal.

Lazerlou said...

Yes Dan! No more burning of fossil fuels. Unless you want your summers hotter, your winters colder and generally much more atmospheric energy and volitility. Just wait till hurricane season 30 years from now. HOt action thanks to global warming. If we can figure out how to make a container that can withstand a fusion reaction, we'll have unlimited energy without radioactive byproducts (just helium or some other relativly small element as a byproduct). Coal, if I'm not mistaken is the worst of all the fossil fuels in terms of cleanliness and toxic byroducts.
The next new deal Dan, The next new deal.

cal skinner said...

Glad you enjoyed your visit to McHenry County. It really is a great place to take kids.

Nathan Kaufman said...

Any updates on bicycle initiatives? Can bikes go on trains and CTA stuff?

I went biking in Jackson Hole this summer. It was pretty awesome.

Bill Baar said...

The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad was the force putting the electirc North Shore and Chicago Aurorar and Elgin interurbans out of business.

Street cars were hugely capital intensive, dangerous, and none too flexible on route changes. GM didn't put them out of business.

The first 30 years of Chicago history in the 20th Century were dealing with the scandels and corruptoin of Insull and the other traction mouguls. These weren't green charities.

Bush and Hastert deserve a lot of credit for bringing bucks to Illinois for the metra expansion including North South aligned Metra Star Line.

Lazerlou said...

It is widely known and accepted that GM put electric street cars out of business in Southern California. Just like Oil companies keep the government from funding fusion research, just like Haliburton exploits 9/11 to start a war in Iraq. It is all about corporate power and the almighty dollar.